Shari HSS students engage in a mock parliamentary debate

Democracy: The agenda of the day was the Use of Mobile Phones in School Bill. A clause has sparked a debate. Education minister Karma Dema argued that use of mobile phones would enhance students’ performance, as they would have access to Internet.

The proposal was opposed. Dogar-Shaba Member of Parliament, Karma Wangchu submitted that it would bring numerous problems. “It would force poor families to buy phones and keep students engaged in unwanted activities,” he said.

South Thimphu MP, Tandin Pem, supported the minister arguing that mobile phones would come handy during disasters.

It was the third reading of the Bill in the first mock parliamentary session at the Shari Higher Secondary School, Paro on July 25.

The debate is interesting and relevant. The students are enjoying the Parliament introduced ‘Parliament Role Play’ programme, an education and awareness programme.

The session is adjourned. The legislative committee was asked to relook into the Bill.

The committee amended the clause and proposed that the students would be punished with one-month suspension, if found using cell phones in schools. The committee also deleted the clause in which the bill states that a student would not be allowed to continue with studies, if caught violating the rules.

Leader of the Opposition, Deki Wangmo, opposed the minister’s move on allowing students to use cell phones during intervals and revision periods, saying teachers can’t be after every student to monitor.

Since there was no support to her submission, the house decided to keep the clause as it is. After the debate, the house, through a raise of hands endorsed the Bill and forwarded it to the National Council for further deliberation.

The mock Council is in session. Council member from Tashiyangtse, Tshering Penjore, said the idea would mean burden for poor families, as children would ask their parents for expensive phones.

After a discussion, all council members supported the bill and decided to submit to His Majesty The King.

From the debate and the engagement, the mock parliamentary session is having an impact. “It was like watching a real Parliament session and we could understand what they are talking about,” a student said. “It was better than many days of theory lessons.”

National Council officials said the role-play would allow students to explore the role of members of parliament in representing the people and holding the government to account.

At the same time, students would be educated on the Bhutanese legislative process, gain in-depth understanding of parliamentary process and increase their knowledge on functions of parliament.

Commenting on the Role Play, the Chumey-Ura National Assembly Member, Tshewang Jurme said the hour-long session was a package of his seven years of experience in the Parliament. “It was catchy, interesting and encouraging,” he said.

Vice principal of the school, Namgay Phuntsho said, the session has helped students learn about Bhutanese parliament and its role in depth. Such programme would help students build their confidence to face in the future.

A total of 32 students prepared the session for three days with help from officials from the National Assembly and National Council.

National assembly speaker Jigme Zangpo and members from the Assembly and the Council attended the session.

By Tashi Tenzin, Paro